Business of Law

When the legal job market tanked, a law student changed it

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illustration by sam ward

Illustration by Sam Ward

As a law student facing a tough job market, Shahed Kader figured he had a couple of options: He could leave law school and try a new career or move ahead with his degree. But he ended up choosing a third option—change the job market.

Rather than give up on his legal dream, in January 2014 Kader launched the job site Lawlternate, which he describes as a network of job boards for legal professionals seeking alternative opportunities.

“I founded Lawlternate,” Kader says, “because the legal job market was dwindling and not evolving.”

Since graduating from Temple University with a degree in political science and history in 2008, Kader has been working in software sales for tech startups during the day but hopes to practice real estate and small business law. He is enrolled in the evening program of New York Law School, set to graduate this month.

“I want my law degree because I honestly believe it gives me an advantage in every aspect of business and life,” he says. “The legal profession is evolving. It’s no longer what you see on Law & Order but involves sales, business development, compliance, partnerships and risk analysis.”

Unfortunately for many law students, it is more difficult than ever to find entry-level opportunities that will help them break into a position with a law firm. But legal recruiters say a law degree, paralegal certificate or legal certification can help young job seekers enter technology, communications or sales positions in the wider business world.

In addition, they say lawyers with technical expertise or computer science experience can find work within the legal industry that would not have been imaginable just a few years ago.

Jared Coseglia, president of legal technology recruiting firm Tru Staffing Partners, says, “The fact is, unless you are on the partner track at an Am Law 100 firm, a JD will be more lucrative and deliver more interesting job opportunities if you look outside of the traditional law firm environment.”


While many of the Lawlternate job postings are still for lawyer or paralegal positions, many are for compliance, business development, sales, e-discovery and cybersecurity positions. These are jobs that require technical or business knowledge, but demand specialized legal expertise that is hard to come by without a law degree.

Kader says he has seen an increase in startups and small businesses looking for lawyers to fill in-house legal and business roles. “The jobs listed on Lawlternate are not only alternative careers but alternative companies, like tech startups that need inside counsel,” he says. “The most interesting alternative careers are business development, compliance and risk.”

For now, Kader operates and maintains the site by himself. Job listings are imported from a variety of online sources, and listing agents or companies have the choice to post featured jobs for $5 for increased exposure.

“We’re averaging about 100 unique visitors a day right now,” he says. “Companies posting jobs are still low, as the word is still being spread.”

While his ultimate goal is to use his law degree to get ahead, Kader may have accidentally created his own alternative legal career.

With a job market that is only slowly recovering from the economic downturn of the last decade, not all of the same career options remain viable. But rather than surrender their legal dreams, law students are encouraged to reconsider the path before them. A law degree can be just one more tool for job seekers to distinguish themselves from their peers rather than a ticket to a partnership at a large law firm.

“I would tell computer science or business majors looking at grad school to consider a JD,” Coseglia says. “Even if you don’t want a job in technology, the chances are that a law firm will value that capability and consider you a valuable asset. This is the world we live in.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “Alterna-Law Careers: When the legal job market tanked, a law student changed it.”

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